Diet, exercise tips to help you keep a healthy weight

Nutrition, Fitness
Aug 2, 2023

The key to maintaining a healthy weight: Balance the calories you eat with physical activity. But that’s easier said than done for a lot of people.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than seven in 10 U.S. adults older than 20 are either overweight or obese. Why is excess weight a concern? It may cause new health problems, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, or worsen pre-existing conditions. Staying at a healthy weight is extra important if you have or had heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, cancer, high total cholesterol and even arthritis.

If your weight isn’t in a healthy range for your height and build, the best way to lose weight is to set a reasonable goal and lose it slowly. An initial weight loss goal of five to seven percent of your body weight is realistic for most people.

To find out your Body Mass Index (BMI), use our calculator.

To help you get started, try these practical tips for healthy lifestyle changes. Andrea Manley, dietitian


Many types of diet can help with weight loss, such as low-calorie, low-carbohydrate and Mediterranean diets. Especially if you are watching your blood pressure, you may want to look into the D.A.S.H. diet.

What’s really important is watching the number of calories you are consuming. If you cut out just 500 calories a day you’d lose one pound a week. That could be as simple as cutting out that late night snack or drinking two or three (depending on the size) fewer sodas a day.

“If you are overweight and generally healthy, but are trying to lose weight to prevent disease, then yes, I think you should count calories,” says Andrea Manley, registered dietitian at St. Joseph’s Hospital. “I think it’s beneficial to know how much you are actually getting. People may think they are only consuming 1,500 or less calories a day, but when you sit down and count them, it could be closer to 3,000 calories.”

How many calories you should consume a day varies depending on many factors including height and activity level. A dietitian or your healthcare provider should be able to guide you. You also should talk to your doctor about any diet or exercise routine you plan to start, especially if you have pre-existing conditions.

Other healthy diet ideas:

  • Limit butter and margarine. Switch to reduced-fat margarine or try jam on your bread, bagels and other baked goods.
  • Choose light or low-fat dairy foods. This includes milk, cheese, yogurt or sour cream. Drink one percent or skim milk. You'll still get the nutrients and taste. But not the fat.
  • Use less salad dressing. Use just one tablespoon of dressing. The same idea applies when using condiments. A little mayonnaise is all you need, or use the light or fat-free kind.
  • Choose lean meats. These include turkey, chicken and seafood. If you cook it yourself, trim all visible fat and drain any grease. If you bake chicken, do so without the skin.
  • Use oils in small amounts. Try olive, avocado, coconut and canola oils.
  • Pick healthy, easy-to-grab foods . Try little bags or containers of ready-to-eat vegetables. These include celery sticks, cucumber wedges, cherry tomatoes and baby carrots. Make healthier choices for store-bought snacks, such as pretzels. Keep them with you in your briefcase, handbag, office, car and home.
  • Eat when hungry and stop when full. Take smaller portions. Don't go back for seconds.
  • Think small when dining out. Restaurant servings are often too large. When dining out or ordering in, ask for half of a serving. Or get a doggy bag. That way you won’t be as full, and you can have some tomorrow.
  • Be careful when ordering fast food. Not all fast food is high in fat and calories. Order a lean roast beef or grilled chicken sandwich. Stick with regular and small portion sizes. Order items without the cheese.
  • Cut down on drinks and sweets. Try not to drink alcohol or drinks with added sugar. Try to skip sweets such as candy, cakes and cookies. 


Exercise is also important when it comes to weight loss and maintaining a healthy weight. The general recommendation is 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity a week, or 30 minutes a day, five days a week. Aerobic activities can include running, jogging, cycling, swimming or walking, for example.

It’s also important to add some resistance or weight training to your workout two or three days a week. The more muscle you have, the more calories you are burning because muscles burn more calories than fat at rest. Julia Gammon

Here are some other exercise tips for staying at a healthy weight:

  • Try different types of exercise. Aerobic and strengthening exercises burn calories by increasing your heart rate. Try to include all four types of exercise: endurance, strength, balance and flexibility.
  • Don't try to make exercise hard. Physical activity doesn’t have to be strenuous to give you health benefits. No matter what your age, you can benefit from a medium amount of physical activity. Do this each day if possible. You can reach a medium amount of activity in longer sessions of moderately intense activities (such as 30 minutes of brisk walking). You can also reach it in shorter sessions of more strenuous activities (such as 15 to 20 minutes of jogging).
  • Start with short amounts of activity. If you have not been active, start with short intervals (five to 10 minutes) of physical activity. Slowly build up to the activity level you want to reach.
  • Do things that you enjoy. If you like to walk and talk with friends, find a partner and start a walking routine. If you want to release stress-related energy or anxiety, try boxing. Find an exercise program you will enjoy.
  • Find ways to be active throughout the day. Use the stairs instead of the elevator. Do wall pushups while you wait for the breakfast coffee to brew. Park at the far end of the parking lot and walk briskly to the building. Even small changes — when done regularly — can make a big difference in your overall fitness.
  • Don't get discouraged if you miss a day or two. Vacations, illness and schedule changes may interrupt your exercise plans. Just get back on track when the interruption is done.

It’s also important to remember that if you are trying to lose weight, diet and exercise go hand-in-hand.

“If you are in the gym exercising every day, you might see a little change, but without the proper healthy diet, you’re not going to reach the goals that you want to reach,” says Julia Babos, RD, LD, education specialist/dietitian with the St. Joseph’s/Candler Wellness Center. “You don’t want to go to the gym and put in that hard work and then backslide when you go home and eat poorly or don’t sleep well.”


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